Associating Others With Allah

The most fundamental article of faith in Islam is belief in strict monotheism (tawhid). The opposite of tawhid is known as shirk, or associating partners with Allah. This is often translated as polytheism.

Shirk is the one unforgivable sin in Islam, if one dies in this state. Associating a partner or others with Allah is a rejection of Islam and takes one outside of the faith. The Quran says:

"Verily, Allah forgives not the sin of setting up partners in worship with Him, but He forgives whom He wills sins other than that. And whoever sets up partners in worship with Allah, has indeed strayed far from the path." (4:116)

Even if people try their best to live a virtuous and generous life, their efforts will count for nothing if they are not built on a foundation of faith:

"If you join others in worship with Allah, then surely all your deeds will be in vain, and you will certainly be among the losers." (39:65)

Unintentional Shirk

With or without intending it, one can delve into shirk through a variety of actions:

  • Supplicating, or praying for help, guidance and protection, etc., from others than Allah
  • Believing that objects have special "powers" of healing or good luck, even if that object includes Quranic writing or some other Islamic symbolism
  • Finding your purpose in life from material pursuits, desiring and intending for something other than Allah
  • Obeying others over Allah; showing that you are ready to disobey Allah's guidance when it suits you
  • Engaging in magic, sorcery or fortune telling that attempts to see the unseen or predict future events -- only Allah knows such things

    What the Quran Says

    "Say: 'Call upon other (gods) whom ye fancy, besides Allah. They have no power, not the weight of an atom, in the heavens or on earth: No (sort of) share have they therein, nor is any of them a helper to Allah." (34:22)
    "Say: "Do ye see what it is ye invoke besides Allah. Show me what it is they have created on earth, or have they a share in the heavens bring me a book (revealed) before this, or any remnant of knowledge (ye may have), if ye are telling the truth!" (46:4)
    "Behold, Luqman said to his son by way of instruction: 'O my son! join not in worship (others) with Allah. for false worship is indeed the highest wrong-doing.'" (31:13)

    Setting up partners with Allah -- or shirking -- is the one unforgivable sin in Islam: "Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with him in worship, but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases" (Quran 4:48). Learning about shirk may help us to avoid it in all its forms and manifestations.